Ivor Catt,121 Westfields,
St. Albans AL3 4JR
G Terence Kealey, 21 Lyndewode Rd.,
Dear Terence Kealey,
Funding of science R&D
[IC feb99. Kealey thought that government funding for R&D was counter-productive. Fine, But he looked at private industry through rose-tinted spectacles. He had only drawn salary from govt. funding, and knew that was bad. He'll know more today about how bad industry funded R&D is.]
I have now reached p256 of your remarkable book, The Economic Laws of Scientific Research, pub. Macmillan 1996. I am impressed by the vast quantity of background reading that it encompasses.
I am very sympathetic with your diagnosis, but only partially with your cure; to give it over to market forces. After all, (Glaxo/)Wellcome is going to be wiped out by a class action over deaths from AZT. Where is the commercial value in that? It was avoidable by men who were properly profit-oriented. Glaxo sailed into the Wellcome disaster area by bundling when they could have kept the Glaxo end clear of the claims for compensation. Glaxo could have just asset stripped the Wellcome HQ, a la Maxwell. I feel that, like Thatcher, you think the grass is greener on the other side; that concern for profit concentrates the mind of business. If you work for Wellcome or the like, you will get a rude awakening. (Although she spent one year in a research lab., this was not long enough to give Thatcher insight into the behaviour of private business.)
Relevant references from my writings are;
1 The Fettered Giant, The Spectator, 2mar74, p275.
2 Can High technology gain a real foothold in UK?, omputer Weekly, 18may78. p12
3 The Deeper Hidden Message in Maxwell's Equations, Electromics and Wireless World, dec85, p33.
4 The Management-Technocracy Guerrilla War in Computer Worship, pub. Pitman 1973.
1. "The key discovery that has been made is that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, no parties are motivated primarily by profit.Loyalty to a particular group, fear of appearing foolish, and a number of other motivations are stronger than the profit motive. ....
The rejection of high profitability is enshrined in a cliche of business management and accountancy, the well known principle that any business proposal claiming more than a reasonable (say 50 per cent) return on capital invested must be rejected as unsound. (Later in this article I shall discuss the methods used by technocrats to mask the larger potential of a very good idea.)
.... the whole system of business and finance is built on the thesis that massive return on capital invested will not occur.
This leads us to the idea of a self-limiting advance, regarelss of (or even because of) the major profit potential. Society defends itself against change, particularly that threatening major profit.
2 "It is time we faced up to the career and security threat that a major innovation with major profit potential presents to a manager in a typical British company. In all the companies that I have studied, I do not believe that existing management would survive a tenfold increase in profitability of the company."
3 "Biography and History of Science writings spawned in academia present the thesis that, lacking mathematics, Faraday could not really effect his discovery of electromagnetic induction. Rather, he stumbled into it, but it could only be properly exploited decades later, after Professor Maxwell had placed a mathematical structure upon Faraday's fumbling, , unscholarly ideas. ... do what they will, the local yokels will not replace mathematical academia as the fount of knowledge and progress." (In your jargon, for yokel read technology, and for maths read science.)
4 This item and the rest of the book argue that all is not sweetness and profit orientation in private industry. In fact, profit is only one minor factor among many in the hi-tec companies I have experience of, including Anamartic, set up by Clive Sinclair to exploit the profit potential of my first invention. Similarly, after I convinced Branson's MD of the value of another invention of mine, there was absolutely no possibility that Branson would exploit it. The reasons are not too subtle. By your analysis, Branson should have put a small amount of time into finding the fatal (technical and/or commercial) flaw(s) in my proposals. You can be sure he put much time into coke, which met his motivations (which could not have been return on capital invested) much better than a super computer. Profit motivation is used as a cover to camouflage the primary, less healthy motivators. I mention Branson because I think you do in your book, although I cannot find him in the index.
Yours sincerely, Ivor Catt
cc G Terence Kealey, 21 Lyndewode Rd.,
Cambridge (new 1996 book is Economic Laws of Scientific Research £16) 01223 365353
cc Luca Turin, Dept of Anatomy,
(N Hodgkinson lectured for Turin, as I did.)
Unversity College London, Gower St., WC1,
work tel 071 380 7777 x 2173
cc Andrew Neil, Host, THE MIDNIGHT HOUR,
Wood Lane, West London
D S Walton, 103 Cromarty,
Ouston, Chester le Street, co Durham
Theresa Gorman M.P.,
House of Commons, Westminster.